Lectures at St. Vincent Ferrer
January 3, 2012
Each year, the friars at St. Vincent Ferrer in New York City offer a series of free lectures. This year Fr. Bruno Shah is preaching the series, with the theme of “The Beauty of Apocalypse: A Catholic Vision of the End of All Things.” The lectures take place at 7:00 PM in the Church Hall at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Manhattan, on the first Mondays of the month, and they will continue until May 7. They are free and open to the public.
Here is Fr. Bruno’s account of the program’s intent, from the parish’s bulletin:
The preaching of Saint Vincent Ferrer was often figured in terms of the Final Judgment. Hence, he is also known—and, in our Great East Window, is himself figured—as the Angel of the Apocalypse. This window, which literally orients all who enter and pray toward the eternally rising sun, is glorious. And yet, the beautiful images are drawn from the Bible’s cryptic and harrowing book of Revelation or Apocalypse. Accordingly, the characteristic irony of our church’s physical majesty is that it evokes at once the darkness of death’s finality as well as the splendor of life’s transcendence. This irony is at the heart of our pilgrim faith. Every Sunday in our Creed, we profess that “Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” Glory is the refulgence of God’s eternity while judgment is the shadow of our mortality. Again, at every Sacrifice of the Mass, before we receive Holy Communion, we declare that “we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” Objectively, divine judgment is a thing of absolute anxiety! And yet, we affirm one another in the pledge of faith as we exchange the sign of peace. Thus we prepare to receive the substance of peace—the Body of Christ. But it’s not only the ironic beauty of Christ’s judgment that inspires this lecture series: Beauty and apocalypse are rather topical. Of course, we hear regular premonitions of the world’s end, characteristic of a certain brand of protestantism. But there are also objective dynamics in today’s world that seem apocalyptic: the specters of natural, financial, and geo-political disaster loom heavily. There’s the malaise of Western civilization, which is growing increasingly disoriented and vulgar (e.g., flip-flops on Sunday in Church… ahem!). Pathos violently surges against tradition while culture is dumbly deflated by bathos. We can even include the Church’s moral evisceration (and else related) in this historical degeneration of meaning. For the late modern world, therefore, beauty shimmers as a final ray of human nobility. In a world where there are no universally acknowledged principles of truth and goodness except those of trend and profit, the prospect of beauty shines as truth and morality’s final gambit of hope. Beauty is its own argument; to find something beautiful is to have been convinced by it! Not without reason, Christian pastors and theologians (not only Catholic) are increasingly focusing on the beauty of the Good News. Consider Our Holy Father’s inaugural words as the Church’s universal preacher: “There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him” (24 April 2005). Accordingly, Theology in the City’s eight lectures will meditate on our friendship with Christ, whom we acknowledge will be the world’s Final Judge. The overarching thesis is that Christian life manifests the beauty of God especially in the midst of the world’s apparent demise. Each conference can stand on its own, and will last about 50 minutes. Please join us!